My local fruit and veg shop, SMBS Foods in East Dulwich, sells such enormous bunches of herbs – far bigger than those packets that you get in the supermarket – that I always end up with a week of meals planned around them. After picking up a bunch for yesterday’s lentil soup, I find myself with an abundance of sage. This is far from a problem as common sage, or salvia officinalis to use its Latin name, is an excellent winter herb as its pungency lends itself to a range of meats and root vegetables. Sage and onion stuffing and butternut squash and sage risotto are seasonal classics. I also love a scattering of crispy sage leaves on top of a white pizza with sausage. Cold weather heaven.
This particular dish was a triumph in the game of let’s-use-up-what’s-in-the-fridge, played by those too lazy to brave the abominable London weather and make a trip to the shops. It used up the last of the Christmas ingredients still hanging around from before our trip home, most notably a few scratty old parsnips and the end of a wedge of Stilton, far past its best. Making a risotto is a great way of saving these kinds of odds-and-ends from the bin, so I usually keep a stash of arborio rice in the cupboard (it can also be used to make rice pudding). I roasted the parsnips first in a little olive oil and sea salt and then stirred them in towards the end of the cooking as they taste much better than if you try to boil them in the stock with the rice. The crumble of blue cheese at the end means that you can forgo the usual risotto staples of parmesan and butter, making it (very) slightly more virtuous.
Parsnip, Sage and Blue Cheese Risotto
- 4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into large dice
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- 2 eschalion shallots, finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, finely diced
- 1 stick celery, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 3 large sage leaves, finely chopped, plus extra for the topping
- 350g arborio rice
- 125ml dry white wine
- 1l vegetable stock
- Black pepper
- A chunk of blue cheese
Preheat the oven to 200ºc / 400ºf / gas 6. Place the parsnips on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until they are tender and brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan (I use one with straight sides) and saute the shallots, carrot, celery, sage and garlic until soft – do not let them brown. Add the rice and stir until thoroughly coated in the oil.
Turn up the heat slightly and add the wine. Allow it to bubble away and cook until it is almost evaporated. Start to add the stock, a ladle at a time, adding the next ladle when the previous one has evaporated. Stir constantly. When most of the stock has been added, stir in the cooked parsnips breaking them up just a little. Add the remaining stock if necessary. Check the seasoning.
When the risotto is cooked, remove from the heat, crumble over the blue chese and stir through. In a separate pan, heat some oil and quickly fry a few sage leaves over a high heat until they are crisp. Crumble these over the risotto and serve in large warmed bowls.